Ibasho – a place to be

The past months I have been often thinking of the Japanse concept Ibasho. I came across it for the first time a few years ago, in an academic article investigating the importance of this concept for expatriate spouse adjustment (1).

What is Ibasho?
Ibasho literally means ‘a place to be’, and the authors of that article define it as a “sense of comfort and psychological security that a person feels in specific locations they regularly visit”. It is one of those words that does not really translate into English. The closest English word is probably “niche”, which is usually associated with a “situation, activity, or area that is specially suited to a person and his or her interests”, whereas Ibasho usually refers to a space. This space can also be social, based on relations with others. As the authors say: “It is an indigenous concept in the Japanese culture. In American culture, the concept is rarely, if ever, discussed.” Ibasho is something that you yourself create. You have to take action, it is not up to someone else to provide it to you.

Ibasho when travelling
Since reading the article, I realised tha0503 Sunset Cliffs & sunset (14)t when I travel, I always look for the perfect place to sit down and read my book. I try to find ‘a place to be’. In San Diego it was the beautiful Sunset Cliffs, in Ancona it was the long series of stairs leading down to Passetto beach, in Oxford it was the botanical garden, and in Paris I quite enjoy spending some time in either Jardin du Luxembourg or les Arènes de Lutèce.

When I came to Denmark in September, IbashSankt Mikkels kirke in Slagelseo probably also influenced my decision to live in Slagelse and not elsewhere. Other than that I was keen to avoid a daily commute, I quite liked Slagelse when I had the chance to roam around. Granted, it is not very big (although it is the capital of this region so all the facilities are there) and does not really have any claim to fame, but it has a charming town centre with an amazing amount of sculptures and a beautifully situated church on top of the hill. I feel quite at home here, so I guess you can say I have built up some Ibasho here in Slagelse!

How about you? Do you recognize the concept of Ibasho in your daily life, or when you are travelling?

(1) Herleman, H. A., et al. (2008). Ibasho and the adjustment, satisfaction, and well-being of expatriate spouses. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32: 282-299.

Photos by the author


About Marian van Bakel

I graduated in International Business Communication at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. After my studies I was a Visiting Study Fellow at University of Oxford where I conducted a research on the adjustment of Dutch diplomats and their partners in London. In February 2012 I successfully defended my PhD thesis ‘In Touch with the Dutch’, in which I put expatriates in touch with a Dutch host to examine the effect of this contact on the success of the international assignment. During my PhD research I also worked as in house communication consultant at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I am currently a postdoc at the Department of Leadership and Corporate Strategy at the University of Southern Denmark (www.sdu.dk/en). Since 2004 I have done extensive voluntary work in the intercultural field for the Young Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research (Young SIETAR). One of my projects was to co-edit and co-author A Suitcase Full of Discoveries (2008), an intercultural storybook for children.
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